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The Filament Blog


We all suffer from a profound case of “Idea Surplus Disorder” at Filament — and we think that’s a good thing. Here are some of those ideas we’d like to share with you.


Posts in Meetings
Track the Decisions You Make and the Decisions You Need After Every Meeting

We recently hosted a Meeting Design Sprint: a four-day workshop to help a client redesign a big meeting that had grown stale as well as to help the attendees rethink the dozens of other meetings they owned or influenced.

One of the best ideas to emerge from our time together: At the end of every meeting create two lists: “The Decisions We Made” and “The Decisions We Need.”

On the first list, capture the specific decisions you made in the meeting and the details for each. On the second, capture the decisions you need from elsewhere in the organization and then assign the responsibility to go “find” that decision (along with the when, the who, and the how) so your team doesn’t get stuck waiting on someone else.

Every time the leader of your team has a meeting with her leader, she should bring your team’s master list of “Decisions We Need” with her so she can ask her leader to make the decisions needed to move forward or use her influence to help find them elsewhere.

Building a Better Strategy with "Our Five Futures"
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The next time you need people to plan for a disruptive future, give them five to think about instead of just one. When we do this work, we divide people into at least five different groups, and give each group one of the following “futures” to discuss:

  • A disruptive technology that will impact their industry, competitors, or customers such as AI, Blockchain, or Quantum Computing government action,

  • A disruptive competitor will enter their market like an Apple, Amazon, or Google,

  • An unexpected business model will demand they rethink traditional talent, production, or pricing strategies much like AirBNB did to the hotel industry,

  • A change in governmental policy or regulation will realign incentives or shift risk tolerances like what would happen to if the tax code were dramatically rewritten, or

  • A future where everything that happens is predictable and nothing that occurs is surprising (The Status Quo).

For each of these futures, we ask the following questions (shown on the worksheet above):

  1. On a scale of 1-10, how likely do you believe this future will happen?

  2. What do you hope will be true in this future?

  3. What do you fear will be true in this future?

  4. Are there ways we work/operate now that might make it harder to be ready for this future?

  5. If we’re certain that even part of this future will occur, what should we focus our attention on now to be ready?

Once the groups reconvene, ask each to share a story about the future they were given — paying particular attention to their answers to last two questions (4 & 5 from the list above).

We’ll bet you’ll find that no matter the future, each group will answer those last two questions in a very similar way. And that’s where you should begin your strategy work.

You can download the set of all Five Future Worksheets here.

What Could Possibly Go Worng? Using Pre-Mortems to Reduce Risk of Future Failures

Though there’s no shortage of management gurus extolling the benefits of learning from failure, a harsh truth remains: failure sucks. It’s hard to fail even when the stakes are modest — and when you’re working on a “bet the farm” project, it seems unthinkable.

So, how might your team learn from failure before it happens? The answer is simple: do a Pre-Mortem.

A pre-mortem is a managerial strategy in which a project team imagines that a project or organization has failed, and then works backward to determine what potentially could lead to the failure of the project or organization. The technique breaks possible groupthinking by facilitating a positive discussion on threats, increasing the likelihood the main threats are identified. Management can then reduce the chances of failure due to heuristics and biases such as overconfidence and planning fallacy by analyzing the magnitude and likelihood of each threat, and take preventative actions to protect the project or organization from suffering an untimely "death".

According to this Harvard Business Review, "unlike a typical critiquing session, in which project team members are asked what might go wrong, the premortem operates on the assumption that the 'patient' has died, and so asks what did go wrong.”

We’ve built a worksheet (which you can download here) that prompts your team to imagine your project was “a miserable failure” and to answer the following questions, as if you’re remembering what happened instead of predicting it:

  • What are ten things that went wrong?

  • What were we most nervous about before we began?

  • What were our blind spots?

  • What should have been our back-up plan?

  • Who was our biggest detractor, and what might we have done to get them on board?

  • What are at least three things we’ll never do again?

Use the worksheet before you kick-off your next project, and it will help you ensure your reality turns out way better than your imaginations.

Three Rectangles and Four Circles
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If I can draw the format of 75% or more of your event in just three rectangles and four circles, you might want to shake things up a bit! All that’s missing are the microphones, name tents, water pitchers, and a terrible powerpoint up on the screen.

If you’d like help reimagining your meeting, give Filament a shout!

Dump the Hour Keynote and Do This Instead

Here's an "alternative" keynote format we've used at Filament that combines the best of TED Talks, conversational engagement, room for introverts and extroverts to think and process alike, and speaker-audience connection. It is lightly edited from its original form as posted in a Tweet-stream here.

First, this works best when the room is set in rounds with 4-8 attendees. It can work in auditoriums or when a room is set as "classroom" style -- and don't get me started on what an oxymoron that is -- but it works best in rounds.

Before the speaker begins, every audience member gets a worksheet with room for notes, a place to doodle, and a few prompts like: What was the most compelling thing you heard? What did you disagree with? What would you like to know more about? etc.

On the agenda, the keynote is given an hour (so it looks familiar to those too afraid of big changes), but it is broken down differently:

  • Minutes 1-15: The speaker gets 15 minutes to make their three key points. They can use slides if they want, but it is best to limit the number if you can.

  • Minutes 16 - 20: Once the speaker's 15 minutes are done, the room gets 5 minutes of silence to contemplate what they just heard and complete the worksheet. This is ridiculously hard for extroverts but loved by introverts. It is OK if some take out their phones, though only a few will.

  • Minutes 20 - 40: After the silent time is over, each table gets 20 minutes to talk with one another about what they just heard, what they liked, etc. Ideally, they'll follow the framework from the worksheet, but not terrible if they do a bit of networking, too. During the table time, the speaker can roam around the room and engage one-on-one with audience members who have specific questions. However, each tables' key deliverable during this period is ONE question they'd collectively like to ask the speaker.

  • Minutes 41-60: Finally, for the last 20 minutes of the hour-long keynote slot, each table can ask their question of the speaker. If you have a lot of tables, obviously you'll only pick a few, but every table can still submit their question for the speaker to answer later if they're able. In case it’s not obvious, the reason the table must ask a question collectively instead of allowing individual questions is to eliminate the long-winded, self-important audience member from asking their 5-minute, "I'm so smart, don't you agree" question that bores the rest of the room to tears.

We've found this is so much better than the traditional "sage on the stage" hour-long keynote. It is easier for the speakers, better for the audience, and more fun to boot! I hope you'll try it and let me know if it works for you.

Filament's ILTACON Focus Wall
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The Filament team is back from a week in Washington D.C. and ILTACON, a large conference focused on legal technology and innovation. Besides facilitating several innovation-focused sessions, we rolled out another version of our Focus Wall

As we've done since 2015, we posted several "big" questions that we asked the attendees to answer,  and then we drew their answers on five, huge, 4' x 8' foam boards. 

Check them out below (click on each to expand for easier viewing) and let us know if you'd like to bring a similar creative tool to engage the attendees at your next event.






We'll be posting some of our favorite images over on on Instagram page next week. Follow us there if you'd like to take a deeper dive into this content with our talented artists.

Legal, MeetingsMatthew Homann